7/11/2012

Night Bird Flying - Chapter 17: All Along The Watchtower




"Are you two Ramona Miles and Wilford Miles Jr.?" one of the officers asked, looking back and forth between Chase and May.  "Children of Melisa Miles, recently deceased?"

"Uh," May stuttered, exchanging worried looks with Chase.

The officer turned his partner by Johnny's bed and nodded.  "We've been notified by Federal Officials that you two were under the Witness Protection Program and were recently compromised.  I'm afraid we're going to have to take you two as well as your friends into custody."

"You're not taking us anywhere," Chase said with force.

Johnny had been timing for the right moment and chose this second to strike.  He leaned forward from the bed and reached for the officer closest to him, grabbing his taser from his belt.  The officer turned around quickly.

"Hey!" he exclaimed as Johnny leaned to his side and tased the first officer farthest from him.  The officer’s body convulsed and fell to the floor.  The officer closest to him grabbed the taser from his hand and grasped his wrist tightly, pulling out his handcuffs from his belt.

"Get his!" Johnny shouted as Oliver moved across the room and grabbed the fallen officer's taser from his belt, turning it on the one apprehending Johnny and fired immediately.  The officer shook violently as the chords made contact and hit the floor hard.  Fortunately, he had let go of Johnny before he'd been shocked.  Oliver stood holding the chargeless taser tightly in disbelief.

"What the hell did I just do?" he said, his voice shaking.

"The right thing," Johnny said, pulling his covers off and sliding out of the bed, wincing at the pain that was still throbbing in his chest.  May and Shelly rushed to his side as he struggled to get up and put his arms over their shoulders.  "I've got it from here, thanks."

They let go of him as he stood in his hospital gown, grabbing the orange bottle of painkillers on the table beside him.  His clothes were lying on the chair in the corner of the room and he walked over to get it.  He moved with ease, almost as if he wasn't heavily medicated from the surgery.

"What are we going to do now?" Lorenzo asked with a bit of panic.  "I mean, you kind of put us in a tough position with that move."

"It was either that or you all get relocated to different parts of the country to hide from one man just because the FBI are too incompetent to catch him," Johnny replied, pulling off his hospital gown and putting on his flannel shirt.  Lorenzo, Chase, and Shelly turned away, even though he was still wearing his boxers underneath.

"That's better than rotting for a decade in a cage, Johnny," Oliver said in frustration.  "So what do we do?"

"We get the hell out of here."

"And go where?"

"Somewhere that's not here obviously," Johnny said, pulling his jeans on and zipping them up.  He buttoned his shirt up to the bullet wound, which was where a soft bandaged had been placed over the bloody red spot.

"And how are you going to move around?" May asked with concern.  "You're wounded, you shouldn't be seeing any action."

"I'll be fine," he said, straightening up his collar.  "Besides, you guys need me.  And if you think I'm gonna stay here and get arrested, you might need to go back a few chapters and get to know me better."

"So I'm guessing this all means no concert, huh?"  There was caution in Chase’s voice when asking the question.

Johnny picked up the chair that had held his clothes and looked back at them.  "I never said that," he muttered with a smirk.  With a running start, Johnny heaved the chair out of the window, shattering it and sending its shards raining down below.  Johnny leaned over the side and saw that he was only on the second floor of the building and a well-placed landing would assure their escaped.  He broke off the remaining shards by the window's borders to make sure he didn't hurt himself and began to climb over.  "Be careful on your way out."

"You've got to be kidding me, Johnny," Lorenzo said with worry.  "I'm not as agile as you.  I don't think I can make that kind of escape."

"Just try your best, cuz.  If I can handle it, you can."  With that, he turned around and hopped off the side of the window onto the wood chips and bushes that led to the sidewalk.  The impact of the drop irritated his wound but he pressed on, surveying the parking lot and forest that surrounded this side of the hospital.  He turned around and saw May climbing from the window, followed by Oliver, Chase, Shelly, and Lorenzo, the latter of whom made it through with much more ease than he gave himself credit for.  When they were all down, Johnny led them across the hospital courtyard under the cloudy morning skies above.  "All right, we need to get out of this area before we figure out where to go next."

Johnny's phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out to see that it was Paul.  He answered.  "Paul, this isn't a very good time."

"I only need a second, Johnny," Paul said quickly.  "I just wanted to tell you how we planned on getting this concert done."

"Okay, make it quick."

"All right, the plan is for one of you all to take an original 'Class of '70' t-shirt, put a lighter to it, and throw it in a bathroom trash bin in somewhere in the school.  After that, one of you will simultaneously pull the fire alarm.  The burning shirt will keep the students outside long enough for the duration of the concert"-

"Hey, Stop there!" Shouted an officer from the opposite end of the hospital.

"Gotta go, Paul, later," Johnny shouted as he hung up his phone and slipped it into his pocket.  "Everybody run!"

The group sprinted from the scene, traveling across the hospital courtyard as quickly as they could.  A group of cops were chasing not far behind them and they were growing closer as the band began to close in on the forest around them.  The six of them traveled through, avoiding the branches and tree trunks that were stagnantly blocking their path.  The forest itself was about a mile in length and when the band emerged on the other side, the cops were only half way through.  The group was cutting through a construction site where there was a wide array of unfinished structures and unused construction vehicles left unattended.  At the part of the forest where they emerged, an empty port-a-potty was directly beside them.  Lorenzo stopped running and held his hands on his knees out of breath.

"I can't go on, Johnny," he sighed heavily.  "I'm done.  I'll hold them off from here."

"Are you sure?" Johnny asked, turning to him.

"Yeah, just go."

Johnny nodded and saluted in his direction gratefully.  The band followed him across the construction site, as Lorenzo turned to the port-a-potty and grabbed hold of it.  Just as a few police officers emerged from the forest, Lorenzo lifted the portable toilet with all his might and lobbed it at the officers who collided with it head on, hitting the ground immediately.

Johnny pushed on across the construction site with May and the band behind him, hopping over obstacles and narrowly avoiding dangerous obstructions on their way through.  Eventually, a warehouse came into view at the end of the site and Johnny headed straight for its door, sprinting head on.

As he approached it, he grasped the door handle swiftly and tried to shove it open.  It betrayed him.  He slammed his shoulder against the door and fell back to the ground.

"Son of a bitch," he yelled, holding his arm in pain.  "I put so much effort into that."

May, Chase, Oliver, and Shelly slowed to a jog when they approached him.

"Is the door locked?" Oliver asked breathing heavily.

"Yeah," Johnny said getting up.  "We need to find another way around."

"Wait," May said, approaching the door.  She turned the handle and pulled it open with ease, giving Johnny a lazy look as she entered.  Johnny had been trying to force open a pull door.

"Well there's my blonde moment for the day," Johnny said, following her in.

"Hey!" Oliver exclaimed entering behind him as Chase and Shelly followed.

"We'll lose them in here," Johnny said.  "Meet me on the other side."

"I hope you mean in the warehouse," Shelly said, taking a separate route from him.  The lot of them split up and continued through the maze of aisles filled with unused wood, metal, and other appliances used for construction.  They couldn't tell if the building was vacant or not, but as long as no one was trying to immediately stop them in here, they had no problem plowing right through.  They relocated at the end of the warehouse where there was no back exit but instead a large window at the wall separating them from the outside.  Johnny looked to either side of him and saw a sledgehammer leaning against a crate to his right.  He ran to it, grabbed it and swung it up at the window, smashing it completely.  Tossing the sledgehammer aside, he then climbed up the window cautiously.  "Careful, there's still a little glass up here."

He maneuvered across and jumped down on the other side, continuing on until they were well out of the area.  There was a park not far from where they were walking and they began to approach it after traveling for a few minutes.  It seemed as though the clouds were growing darker above them and it was bound to start raining at any time.

"All right, we're out now," Oliver said with authority as they began to cross over into the park, which consisted of simple a field populated by a few thin-leaved trees sporadically planted across it.  "Now tell us where we're going."

"Wherever the cops won't expect us," Johnny said, keeping his gaze straight ahead.

Oliver increased the speed of his walk and cut Johnny off.  "That's not good enough for me.  Those cops could have tried to shoot us."

"They're not going to shoot a group of fleeing kids, Oliver," May said, stepping up.  "Do you have a better idea of where to go?"

"No, but I'm thinking as our 'supposed' leader, Johnny should at least have a better plan than that...Johnny?"

Johnny was staring into the space ahead of them.  Oliver waved his hand in front of his face to get his attention.  Johnny knocked it away annoyingly and pointed at the lone vehicle in the parking lot of the park.  Sitting in the car were two bald-headed men, one with noticeably burned skin.  Both were staring at the group intently.

"Who is that?"

"It's Ramsey and Eugene," Johnny said securely.

At the sight of them, the two stepped out of the car and began to walk in their direction.  Ramsey's skin had healed considerably since the last time he was seen.  He still had most of his hair during the ambush at the Spanish Castle, but it was obvious that he'd cut it because of the bald spot caused by the burning.  As they approached, Eugene kept making casual glances at Ramsey, studying his mannerisms to determine what his next move would be.

"Two against five," Johnny muttered.  "I don't think you should act on those chances."

"This isn't about chances," Ramsey said, pulling a cigarette and a lighter from his pocket, "This is about you killing my brother."  Ramsey lit the cigarette and took a smooth and lengthy drag before pulling it from his mouth.  "I don't let these kinds of things go too easily."

"Your brother killed a friend of mine and tried to kill me in the process."

"You think that can justify it?!" Ramsey said, losing his temper but he pulled back immediately and regained himself.  When he spoke again, it was calm.  "You've fucked me over for the last time."

"Same here," Johnny said, glaring intently at his enemy.

Ramsey took one final inhale of the cigarette before dropping it on the grass and smothering it with his foot.  "You and me.  Nobody else."

"All right," Johnny responded before turning back to the others.  "Back up.  Nobody interfere."

Johnny bent down and got into a fighting stance as Ramsey did the same.  After a few moments of tension, Ramsey launched forward with a right-handed punch that  Johnny grabbed with his own, putting one of his hands by the back of Ramsey's shoulder and forcing him to the ground face first.  Ramsey got on all fours and spun his body into a kick with his right leg, which Johnny immediately took hold of.  A brief moment passed and Ramsey spun in the opposite direction, swinging his other leg into the air and kicking Johnny in the face, causing him to take a few steps off.  As Johnny recovered from the blow, Ramsey got back onto his feet, crouching low and chuckling at his lucky strike.

He jumped forward and Johnny jerked back, but Ramsey continued in his place, laughing at how he'd made Johnny flinch.  "You scared, Johnny?"

"Reflexes, bitch," Johnny said, launching forward himself but with much more enthusiasm, causing Ramsey to flinch as well, only Johnny followed up immediately with a close-ranged kick that sent Ramsey vaulting in the opposite direction.  It was a devastating hit that knocked him to the ground nearly five feet from where he'd been standing.  He leaned up slowly, holding his chest.  "Get the fuck up."

Ramsey got to his feet, taking his time.

"This is taking way too long, Johnny," Chase shouted anxiously.  "Wrap it up."

Johnny inched toward Ramsey, jerking violently at times to throw him off.  Ramsey tried to keep up with his movements but was always seconds too late.  Johnny lurched forward and kneed Ramsey directly at the bottom of his abdomen, above the groin, an underrated soft spot.  Ramsey grunted aggressively doubling over.  Johnny grabbed hold of him and sent several blows to his stomach.  Ramsey's right hand was free, however, and he sent his knuckle into Johnny's patched-up wound with force, causing Johnny to let go and grasp at it.  His face grimaced as he held on to his chest in deep pain.  Ramsey took advantage of the moment, putting Johnny in a headlock and pulling him around.

Shelly called out and moved closer when she saw Johnny in distress, to which Johnny waved quickly to get her to stop.  He immediately lifted his right leg back, the heel of which bounced against Ramsey's balls with a hammer's force, causing Ramsey to release his grip immediately.  Johnny turned slightly and tackled Ramsey directly in his torso.  Ramsey began to back up until the two of them were on a course collision with a nearby tree.  Johnny slammed Ramsey against it with a loud crack.  When he pulled back, Ramsey collapsed onto the ground, curling into a near fetal position, his body convulsing with his mouth and eyes wide open in shock.  He gasped for breath violently and shook in an agony that was intense enough to make the lot of them cringe.  Everyone stood around in surprise and confusion.

"What'd you do to him?!" Eugene exclaimed in panic.

"I..." Johnny muttered, breathing heavily as he backed away.  "I think I broke his spine."
"You fucking savage," Eugene screamed attacking Johnny from behind.  Johnny whipped around and cracked his elbow across Eugene's temple, causing him to sprawl in the direction of the others.  Immediately, Shelly grabbed hold of his unprotected cranium and slammed it on her knee.  He stood upright with a daze in his eyes before falling onto his back, unconscious.

"Nighty night, bitch," She muttered at his sleeping body.

Johnny turned back to Ramsey, who had stopped convulsing but was now clenching his teeth and growling in pain, tears streaming from his eyes.

"This is where it needs to stop," Johnny said plainly, looking down on Ramsey.  "You let it go beyond this point and it only gets worse.  Calypsis is done, you all set yourself up for that when you started sabotagin' other bands.  I won't make any moves against you unless you make them against me, and God help you if you do.  Let this end now and I promise it'll all be over.  Just leave us alone."

Ramsey swallowed hard and blinked his remaining tears out of his eyes.  "All right," he strained to say through the pain.  "Truce."

Sirens began to wail behind them.  The group turned quickly and saw the police cars pulling up into the parking lot of the field.

"They caught up," May said quickly.  "Time to go."

Johnny looked back at Ramsey, who nodded quickly, confirming that it would be all right to leave him there.  Johnny turned to the others, nodded, and headed deeper into the park, where a gravel-covered trail led into another wooded area in the distance.  Johnny sprinted through the middle of a walking couple, who looked back at him confusedly, only to be bombarded by the group of teenagers that were racing behind him.  They continued on until they reached a quiet suburban neighborhood, emerging into someone's backyard.  The group sprinted across it, passed the house, and ran across the street onto the adjacent neighbor's property.  They hopped one of the fences and emerged into the empty vine and weed covered backyard.  At the end of it, another fence was set up, which Johnny continued on to and hopped, landing in the next yard.

This one was strewn with toys, broken and new, as well as slides and other child-oriented items scattered across the place.  Johnny started to sprint by the fence at the side of the house, the others following closely behind him, when suddenly a large brown and white rottweiler jumped up from his spot on the house's patio and barked ferociously at him.  Johnny skidded to a stop, holding his hands up as the dog jumped in his direction.  The others had stopped behind him as well, frozen by the beast antagonizing them.  Johnny darted to his left and hopped another fence, the others right behind him.  However, Shelly was running out of breath and straggling behind.  When May, Oliver, and Chase climbed over the fence, she was the last to join them.  The rottweiler grabbed hold of Shelly's pant leg and tore at it viciously, pulling her from the fence.  She lifted herself up and kicked the dog in the face to get it to release its grip before she climbed over and ran into the other yard behind the others.

Immediately after she got a running start, she jerked violently and began to shake, falling to the ground.  The police had climbed from the adjacent side of the fence and blind sided her with a taser.  Chase turned back momentarily and saw her hit the grass.

"NO!" he exclaimed, turning in her direction.  "SHELLY!"

Oliver heard him scream and turned, grabbing hold of him as he began to run back to her.  "Let her go, Chase, come on!"

It took a bit of coaxing but he eventually threw Chase in front of him in time for them to both climb over the next fence without being apprehended by the cops that were right behind them.  Johnny had reached a lone convenient store by the neighborhood and raced by it, noticing the stairs to a subway station right around the corner of it.  He turned back to the others and yelled for them to keep following.

They traveled deep into the subway and reached the ticket booth where the metal bars would stop them from going through unless they had a ticket or subway pass.  Johnny disregarded it and vaulted over the bars without losing momentum in his trek.  The others continued closely behind them, followed by the police officers who were beginning to fall back.  The subway itself wasn't very crowded due to the lack of a solid morning commute, at least in this particular part of the city, which was good for them.  People that did populate the area watched them curiously as they raced through but made no moves to stop them.

When Johnny jumped down the flight of stairs that led to the first floor, the closest train was pulling off, while the one across from it was just stopping.  Johnny ran across the platform, jumped onto the tracks, and raced to the other side as the farther one traveled into the tunnel and creaked to a stop.  He climbed onto the second platform, heaving loudly as he used the last of his energy to plow onward to the empty subway car that was moments away from closing its doors.  He blasted through, using the pole in the center of the car to swing around and calm the momentum that drove him forward.  He quickly moved out of the way as May, Chase, and Oliver followed after him and the doors closed as soon as they were aboard.  Johnny could see out of the window of the door that the officers were much too far to catch them and the group probably would have been able to get away even if there wasn't a train there for them to hitch.  As the subway car began to move, Johnny took a sigh of relief and sat by the opposite door, chuckling slightly at their victory.

"We did it," May sighed with a smile.  "At least for now.”

“What happened to Shelly?” Johnny asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Tased,” Chase said, leaning over on his knees, breathing heavily.  “I can’t believe I left her.”

“You did your best man, don’t worry about it,” Oliver complimented, patting him on the back.  Chase nodded somberly.

“Where is this train headed?” May asked, leaning over to the map by Johnny’s head.  Johnny turned around and looked at it himself.

“Looks like downtown,” he said, studying it.

“Downtown is where the police station is,” Oliver said with worry.  “We’d be walking into the belly of the beast.”

“We’ll just take another train from the next stop.”

“And what if they’re waiting for us?  Better yet, what do we do if they aren’t there?  What train do we take and where?  We’ve got no where to go, Johnny!”

“You don’t think I know that already, Oliver?” Johnny asked in annoyance, looking up at him from the seat.  “I’m doin’ the best I can.”

“You’re a fucking leader, you need to do better.”

“You need to stop relyin’ on me and make your own damn decisions, Oliver,” Johnny said, jumping up into his face threateningly.  “You don’t have to be here right now.”

“All right, stop!” May shouted putting a hand in between the two to prevent them from tearing each other apart.  “Johnny, we’re in the worst fucking situation we could possibly be in right now, we need to come up with a plan.  Oliver, complaining like a bitch isn’t going to help anybody right now.  Now, both of you, shut the fuck up and think.”

The four of them stood silently around each other as they paced in thought.  Chase was the first to break the silence when he began to chuckle.

“She told you guys,” he said with a smirk.

“Shut up, Chase,” May snapped.

The four of them took seats across from each other, waiting for the subway car to stop at its next location.  When it finally did, the group exited as several other downtown residents took their place.  Johnny led them up the stairs to top of the subway station instead of to another train and eventually they emerged onto the streets of downtown Ladyland.  This was Johnny’s very first view of a cityscape since he’d visited New Orleans and Ladyland proved to be even more impressive.  They emerged onto a sidewalk where a few people were walking the streets but the traffic seemed to be naturally busy this time of day.

“I thought we were going to take another subway some place else?” Chase asked curiously.

“The cops are probably scowerin’ every other part of the city for us, they wouldn’t think we were crazy enough to come downtown.  It’s the least obvious place right now.”

It was at that moment that something drastic occurred.  Oliver had been following behind, but was the closest to the curb.  As they continued along the sidewalk, his foot slid off its side, causing him to lose his balance.  He flailed his arms through the air as he fell to his side into the street, just as an oncoming bus was passing by.  His arms, which were far past his head, were right in its path as it continued past him.  The front wheel of the bus rolled across both of his hands and wrists immediately.  Oliver rolled twice right after the front wheel went by and maneuvered closer to the sidewalk.  Instantly, he began to wail in immense pain, his face full of anguish as he held his bloody hands in front of him.

Johnny sprung forward, lifting Oliver out of the street and back onto the sidewalk as May and Chase looked at him in shock.  Johnny wrapped his arms around him tightly for comfort.

“It’s gonna be all right, Oliver, it’s gonna be all right.”  Oliver cried hysterically.  Johnny turned back to the others.  “Help me get him into that alleyway.”

May ran to Oliver’s front and grabbed his legs while Johnny pulled him under his arms and they carried him into the alley in between the two buildings closest to them.  They carried him onward until they were out of view of watchful eyes that might be walking the streets at the moment.  They laid him down, his back against the wall by a trash can.  Oliver’s cries had subsided and he was now grunting in pain as he laid his hands on his lap.  They were bleeding and horribly ruptured, torn open in certain spots and noticeably shattered.  It was gruesome.  Chase was gagging behind them and holding his mouth in anticipation.

Johnny kneeled down by him and reached into his pocket, pulling out the bottle of painkillers he’d taken from the hospital room.  He opened it and poured several of them into his hand.

“These are painkillers, they’re goin’ to make you feel better,” Johnny said in a caring voice to ease his pain.  “Open up.”

Oliver opened his mouth and Johnny dropped the pills in.  He swallowed hard and continued to hold back his cries.

“I highly doubt those kinds of hands will be able to work any turntables any time soon,” Chase said, surveying Oliver’s wounds.

“No, I think that ship sailed when Lorenzo and Shelly got caught,” Johnny replied, closing the bottle and shoving it into his pocket.

“What?” Chase said in confusion.  “But you said we were still doing the concert.”

“I only said that I didn’t say we weren’t doin’ the concert.  That meant if we got away clean, it’d still be on but now look.  Two of the band members have been arrested and one is incapacitated, probably beyond repair.”

“Yeah and if we don’t keep moving, none of you will be practicing music any time later,” May said anxiously.

“May’s right, we need to go-”

“No, Johnny, we’re settling this,” Chase said, forcing Johnny to face him.  “Are we doing the concert or not?  Are we seriously going to let all of that hard work go to waste?”

“He’s right, Johnny,” Oliver croaked out weakly as the painkillers kicked in.  “You've still got fill-ins, you need to go and do the concert.”

“Fill-ins for two people, when three are out of commission,” Johnny said without hope.

“Paul has enough money to do anything.  He can get other fill-ins.  You got to do it, Johnny.”

Johnny began to think it over but stopped himself.  “The only thing we’ve got to do now is get the hell out of here so there can still be a chance for it.  You need to be in a hospital before those wounds get infected.”

“I’ll be fine.  My parents’ apartment is in the downtown area.  They aren’t home but I’m sure Caitlin is, since it’s a Sunday.  We should head over there-”

Chase was immediately tackled to the ground by a figure in blue.  Johnny turned around to see an officer pinning him on his stomach and forcing his arms behind his back.  He'd snuck up behind them.

“Johnny, GO!” Chase screamed.

Johnny grabbed Oliver by the torso, taking care not to manhandle his broken arms, and hoisted him onto his shoulder.  May was already halfway down the alleyway with Johnny following behind.  As soon as they broke out of the alley, another officer came around from the opposite side in their direction.  May, who was in between the officer and Johnny, launched herself into the officer’s path to provide a distraction.  Johnny knew she would be going down too.  He turned around and headed in another direction.

A bus had stopped at the corner across the street and Johnny was racing to the other side of it before it pulled off.  He circled its front and climbed up its entrance.  The bus was vacant with the exception of the driver and two passengers in the back, the lot of which looked at the two curiously, probably wondering if Oliver’s wounds were cause for concern.  Johnny laid Oliver down in the front seat, then walked over to the bus fare collector, pulled out three dollars and slid them in quickly.  The bus began to pull off and Johnny could see May being pressed up against the wall of a building as the officer she distracted slid the handcuffs around her wrists.

“You got your phone?” Oliver asked weakly, turning to him as he sat down beside him somberly.

Johnny pulled it out.  “Who do you want to call?”

“Caitlin.”  Johnny dialed Oliver’s house number on his phone and held it up to Oliver’s face as it rung.  After a few minutes of waiting, Oliver began to speak.  “Caitlin, it’s me, I’m calling from Johnny’s phone....We’re in some deep shit, we need to crash for a little while...no, I’m actually not okay so get some towels or something ready...thanks, sis, we’ll see you in a bit...bye.”

Johnny took the cue to pull back the phone and hung it up.  “Do you know if this bus takes us by your apartment?”

“Yeah it should, assuming it goes the same route as I remember.  I’ll let you know when to pull the lever.”

“Okay,” Johnny said, leaning back in his seat and taking a deep breath.  A whole lot of action had just went down and now he just had to sit down and wait.  His adrenaline level was having a tough time declining from the excitement.  After an awkward silence, he turned back to Oliver.  “Do you want some more painkillers?”

“No, Johnny,” Oliver said, adjusting himself in the seat so he could make himself presentable.  “I do want to apologize though.  I’m still not over this time skip thing but I’m not going to use that as an excuse for my actions anymore.  I’m just a jerk, that’s it.  That’s why May wants to be with you instead of me.  I deserved to get my hands run over.”

Johnny snorted in laughter, to which Oliver gave him a sour look.  "You gotta admit, that sounded kinda funny.  'I deserve to get my hands run over.'  Why don't you stop feelin' sorry for yourself and do somethin' about it."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, it's not my life.  What do you think you need to do?"

Oliver chuckled.  "Be like you."

"Trust me, you don't want to be like me," Johnny responded with a laugh, turning away.
"Who wouldn't?  Everybody likes you."

"One person can't be liked by everybody.  I've basically got an entire town against me back home.  I know what it's like to be hated.  Hell, I know what it's like to look death in the face.  Trust me, you're better the way you are because you're you.  You don't need to change for anybody, especially not me.  There are many different people all over the world that you're better off than right about now, bloody hands and all."

Oliver chuckled and stared off into space.  "I think you should write a song about all of this.  All of this crazy shit that's been happening for the last few days.  It'd be the subject of legends."

Johnny smirked.  "I wish I could say that's possible, but after all of the shit we've been through, it's hard to tell where this band is goin'.  If I ever get the chance to write that song, I will, when my arms aren't attached to my body in solitary confinement."

Oliver laughed which contagiously rubbed off on Johnny.  They sat smiling when Oliver turned to him.  "I think I'll take some more of those painkillers now if you don't mind."

--------------------------------------------------

Getting off at the stop, Johnny carried Oliver to the apartment building in the rain that was now pouring profusely.  He buzzed up and carried him to the 4th floor at room 308.  On his way up, Johnny constantly asked if Oliver was still conscious.  The latest dose of painkillers had made him a bit loopy and his hand wounds were only getting worse as they dripped blood on the floor behind them.  Seconds later, they reached the room and Johnny knocked on the door.  Caitlin answered the door with a look of surprise as Johnny walked in quickly.

"Johnny, I didn't know you were coming," she asked in confusion as he walked in.  "Oh my God!  What happened to his hands?!"

"Long story," Johnny said, lying Oliver down delicately on their couch.  The apartment was somewhat large but homey for a family of four.  "I gave him some painkillers so he'll feel all right, but that's about it.  Cops are after us."

"Johnny, he needs to go to the hospital."

"I know, Caitlin, but if he does you'll probably never see him again," Johnny said firmly.

"What are you talking about?"

"May and Chase were under the Witness Protection Program.  That serial killer that's been on the news lately?  That was their father.  And he came to kill them last night.  Now that their cover has been blown, the feds want to relocate all of us since we all know.  Well, relocate them.  I'm wanted for murder."

"Murder?"

"Yeah, another long story.  Listen we need to lay low for a while before"-

Johnny was cut off by sirens that could be heard traveling around the block.  He prayed that they were chasing some unrelated perpetrator in a high speed chase or were dealing with some other problem, but when they didn't fade in the opposite direction, Johnny walked across the room to the window only to see a group of police cars gathered around the front of the apartment.  He sighed.

"What are you going to do?" Caitlin asked cautiously.

"I'm gonna keep movin'.  At least Oliver will get the treatment he needs.  I've got to go though."

Johnny turned around and headed for the door.  His nerves were far beyond the edge by this point.  Before he left the room, Caitlin called out to him.  "Johnny?"

He turned back to her impatiently.

"Thanks for not abandoning my brother," she said softly.

"Just keep him safe," Johnny replied, nodding before sprinting down the hallway and to the closest staircase that led to the top of the building.  Johnny, now completely on his own, followed it all the way to the top of the apartment building and burst out of the door, emerging on the roof into the pouring rain.  He ran to the edge of the building and saw an adjacent one just a level below him and a few feet apart.  He'd have to jump to the other side.  He ran half way back to the center of the roof and began with a running start, pushing himself to his limit as the rain drops smacked across his face and his long soaked locks nearly obscured his vision.  He stepped on the border of the roof and pushed off, propelling himself across to the other building, where he landed and rolled with the momentum to keep running.  Another building, also a level lower from this one, was to the left of this one.  Johnny repeated the same tactics and hopped to the other side.  Across from it, a ladder was set up and Johnny headed for it immediately.

He brought his leg over the side and slid down to the sidewalk below quickly, wiping the water from his eyes as he continued across the street.  There was a walkway cover over this sidewalk and as soon as he went under he was out of the rain.  It was liberating to get out from under it but Johnny had to keep moving while the police stormed the building across the block.  He walked to the corner of the sidewalk, where a homeless man with a fedora hat covering his face was strumming an acoustic guitar, his case open by his side for passerbys to drop a generous tip.  Johnny disregarded him as he passed until the man began to sing.

"No reason to get excited," he wailed as it echoed across the covered area.  Johnny stopped in his tracks as the man continued.
"The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke."

Johnny turned back to the homeless man slowly as he recognized the voice.  It was a black man, he was sure, but it couldn't be who he was thinking of.  He slowly approached the man, who continued to sing.

"But you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate.
So let us stop talking falsely now.
The hours getting late."

The man continued and didn't seem to notice the boy standing in front of him, staring at him intently.  This was uncanny.  Johnny definitely wouldn't have stopped at a moment like this if it hadn't been for a good reason.  The man eventually stopped playing and looked up at Johnny, confirming his suspicions.  He was a slim light-skinned man with long hair spilling out of the sides of the fedora.  A thin goatee was growing under his chin, his face graced with high cheek bones and large pink lips.  Johnny drew back when he saw him.

"You play, little man?" he asked with a smirk.  The homeless man got to his feet and walked closer to Johnny, who fell onto his back and tried to scoot away.  "You think you can runaway from all your problems?  Did I not teach you anything, boy?"

"Dad..." Johnny muttered simply as he continued to scramble away, his eyes wide with shock.  He began to crawl out into the rain.

"You can't keep running away, John.  Life doesn't work like that.  You get your ass up and you face your problems head on or you die trying.  You show any less and you play right into the devil's hands and I'm not going to be there to release his grip either.  Man up, boy."

"There he is!" the police officers screamed as they ran across the street in Johnny's direction.  He turned back to see them, cursing under his breath.  When he looked back at the figure standing over him, he saw nothing.  No man.  No guitar.  No case.  No evidence that he had ever been there, other than the image of his shaken son lying on the ground.  The officers approached him and turned him over onto his stomach, slipping the cuffs onto his wrists.  Johnny made no effort to break free.  He let himself get arrested.

--------------------------------------------------

Johnny sat in the holding cell of the precinct beside Chase, May, and Shelly.  Things were deeper than they could have ever expected.  Lorenzo joined them a few seconds later after using the precinct phone and the officer supervising them let him back into the cage.  He sat across from Johnny somberly.

"Even if, by some miracle, this band does happen to work its way out of this debacle," he said, with his hands together.  "My mother said that I am prohibited from continuing my ventures with you, Johnny.  She says that you are a bad influence.  I'm sorry."

"I don't blame her," Johnny said, his left leg up on the bench that they all sat on, resting his arm on top of it lazily.

"My dad's probably going to say the same thing," Shelly said, turning to him.

"If only my mom was alive to say the something like that," Chase responded softly, holding his head in his arms.  "This sucks, porn star proud."

"Hey what's today's date," Lorenzo asked curiously.

"May 15th," Shelly answered.  "Why?"

"Isn't it your birthday today, Johnny?" Lorenzo asked.

Johnny nodded without much emotion.

"Some way to celebrate it," Chase said apathetically.  "You spent the beginning of it in the hospital and the majority of it on the run.  Sorry we couldn't make it better for you, dude."

"Man," Johnny said with pity, leaning forward onto his knees as if he were in pain.  "Joey's not here.  Joey's not even fuckin' here."

"What are you talking about?" Shelly asked with a bit of concern.  "Joey hasn't been with us for a while."

"Yeah, and now it's really sinkin' in.  Joey's not even fuckin' here.  He was here to start the band and now.... back then, there was at least a glimmer of hope when things got bad, that some good might come out of it.  I mean, I don't even care how bad at the Bass he was to start with right now.  It was just great havin' him around; he made things better.  Having all of the original band with us was better, since then it seemed like as long as it was us against the world, we'd be okay.  And now...now we're on our own.  The entire band is fucked and there's no way to get out of this."

Shelly exchanged looks with the others.  None of them knew what to say.  He was right, they were fucked.  It'd be difficult, if not impossible to get out of something like this.  They couldn't provide words of comfort.  Usually, it would be Johnny who'd provide that kind of solace to the band but when it was the other way around, especially in a situation as dire as this, there wasn't much there to use for comfort.

An officer walked by the bars that separated him from the inmates.  "Jonathan Goode?"

"Yeah?" Johnny said, looking up.

"You're free," he replied, unlocking the bars and opening them.  "Your uncle posted bail."

Johnny jumped up with a bit of life and walked out, turning back to the others.

"I'll be back for you guys, I promise."

They nodded somberly and Johnny was escorted into the lobby where Uncle Chuck had been waiting for him in a long beige overcoat and a tired look on his face.  The officer filled the two in on the conditions of his release before the two walked to Chuck's car, driving away silently.  The ride back home was uneventful.  Neither of them spoke on the way there and it was evident that even though Johnny was out, nothing had changed.  As they pulled into the wet driveway, the rain subsiding momentarily, the two got out and spoke their first words to each other.

"How much was the bail?" Johnny asked quietly.

Chuck shook his head dismissively.  "Not too much.  I'll still be able to pay off my mortgage this month, no problem."

"That's good," Johnny said, following Uncle Chuck to the door.  He unlocked it and they both entered.

"You want somethin' to eat," Chuck asked warmly.  "I just went to the store, I'm sure you're hungry as hell."

"Yeah, that sounds good," Johnny said.  The two walked into the kitchen to prepare the food.  As they entered, they both immediately stopped in their tracks at the sight before them.  Standing by the counter was a middle-aged man who bit into a ripe red apple and smiled up at them brightly when they came into view.  It was Will.

"Hey, old friend," he said chillingly as he chewed, holding his silencer pistol tightly by his side.  He stood in a dusty brown leather jacket and blue jeans.  His eyes were dark and his voice was airy and raspy with a sharp undercurrent in its tone like a blade being run across a concrete surface.  It gave Johnny chills.  "Just thought I'd drop by and greet you, but you weren't home.  It's too bad.  I wanted to catch up, but I've got somewhere to be.  I'll see myself out."

Will dropped the bitten apple on the kitchen counter and walked to the back patio, opening it up.  Before leaving, he turned back to them.

"Try not to call anybody or uh...I'll be back."

Will slipped outside and disappeared in the backyard.  The two were shaken, but Johnny was growing increasingly displeased.  He left Chuck's side and walked deeper into the kitchen, turning to him with a dangerous glare.

"Old friend?" he repeated with a burning intensity.

Chuck was silent as he stood, looking away with disdain.

"Who is he to you?"

Chuck swallowed hard and avoided eye contact with Johnny.  "I don't think I can tell you."

Johnny grabbed the bitten apple and hurled it at Chuck, hitting him in the chest.  Johnny exploded.

"FUCK YOU!" he screamed, pointing at him furiously.  "FUCK YOU!  YOU TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK IS GOIN' ON RIGHT NOW!!  STOP FUCKIN' WITH ME!!  TELL ME RIGHT NOW!!  TELL ME!!"

Johnny banged his fist on the counter, enraged, waiting for Chuck's response.  When he held his tongue, Johnny lunged at him, grabbing him by his shirt and pinning him to the refrigerator, which shifted back slightly from the weight.  Johnny was livid and seeping with anger, but Chuck did nothing to stop him.

"What are you hiding?" Johnny asked in a heated whisper.  He was infuriated and shaking as he held on to Chuck's shirt.  "I've been through hell, the least you could do is tell me why the fuck I had to go through it!"

"Okay!" Chuck shouted, pushing Johnny away aggressively.  He rubbed the wrinkles out of his shirt and swallowed hard before speaking again.  "Okay, I'll tell you.  I'll tell you everythin'.  Keep in mind I'm not proud of this.  Not in the least.  And I wouldn't blame you if you hated me for it.  Here goes...."

All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix

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